Will United States Political Leaders Clip the Air Force’s Wings?

Will United States Political Leaders Clip the Air Force’s Wings?


Note: The opinions and comments stated in the following article, and views expressed by any contributor to In Homeland Security, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University System, its management or employees.

By Dr. Robert Gordon
Program Director, Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University

The modern U.S. Air Force is the newest branch of our military. At the time of its creation as a separate branch of the military in 1947, the Air Force provided an air superiority that was considered essential for national defense.

The Air Force is charged with controlling the U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons and has served as an important branch of the U.S. military. Air Force personnel help to keep the United States safe and on the cutting edge of air tactics and technology.

Should the Air Force Be Reabsorbed into Another Military Branch?

The Air Force is an important contributor to national security. But 2016 is a different world than the 1940s.

Even at the time of its creation, the decision to create the Air Force from its Army and Navy components was by no means unanimous. Indeed, many of the old arguments have resurfaced.  Robert Farley’s book “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing of the United States Air Force” offers a less flattering perspective by discussing the additional costs and issues related to an independent air wing.

One argument is cost. There are economic reasons for the reabsorption of the Air Force into other branches of the military. Government leaders point to the financial advantage of operating fewer branches of the military and argue that reabsorption would cut the military’s operating costs.

Certainly, a consolidation of the military would eliminate duplications within different military hierarchies. Consolidation might also improve cooperation and reduce duplication of effort among the branches of the Department of Defense.

Government Leaders Think Air Force Not Connected to War Victories

Although the Air Force’s cost is certainly a consideration today, national and international perceive that the U.S. air force has no association with specific war victories, but its actions were crucial in many military battles.

All of the other military branches share a tradition and reputation for unforgettable victories in war:

  • Navy – The Navy won the Battle of Midway, which became a turning point in the war in the Pacific against the Japanese during World War II.
  • Marines – The Marines took Iwo Jima from the Japanese during World War II. The photo of the U.S. flag being raised by Marines on Mount Suribachi is an iconic image burned into the American psyche. It represents determination against an implacable foe.
  • Army – The Army defeated Hitler and Mussolini in World War II. The Army also helped win World War I. The U.S. Army has a rich and lengthy tradition of defeating enemies of the U.S.
  • Coast Guard – The Coast Guard defended our shorelines from the threat of Germany’s U-boats in World War II. The Coast Guard also protects our shores from drug runners trying to bring drugs into the United States.

The Air Force was at its most successful during the Cold War, with its land-based missile systems, long-range bombers (such as B-52s with nuclear payloads) and logistics for supplies. However, the Air Force has yet to achieve a significant military victory that vividly remains in the memory of the American people.

It should also be noted that other branches of the military could be merged to save costs and improve efficiency. For example, the Coast Guard could be combined with the Navy or the Marines could join the Army or Navy.

F-35 Problems Fail to Enhance Air Force’s Reputation

Many people remember the Air Force as the branch of service that designed and built the F-35. The F-35’s cost overruns and mechanical problems seem to highlight everything that is wrong with the military today.

Since the F-35 debacle, the Air Force has taken more steps to become faster, act more agile and meet the growing demands of the modern military. Unfortunately, the Air Force’s reputation is injured.

According to an April 2016 CNN article, Senator John McCain stated that the F-35 was both a scandal and a tragedy that has tarnished the reputation of the Air Force. The F-35 cost 400 billion dollars; according to the Pentagons’ Chief Weapons tester, the F-35 program is on the path of failing to deliver. Given these kinds of failures, the Air Force might find itself integrated into another branch of the military as politicians seek ways to reduce military spending and gain the approval of U.S. citizens.

The Air Force should take steps to quickly improve its efficiency, reduce its costs and get some positive PR in the near future. These improvements will go a long way toward enhancing its public reputation and helping the Air Force remain a successful branch of the U.S. military.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is the program director for the Reverse Logistics Management department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has more than 25 years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. Dr. Gordon earned his Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix as well as earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA.